Inside SOFI TUKKER's next chapter: "We're evolved and excited for what's next."
After dominating dance music for much of the last three years, SOFI TUKKER look at their next era.
Header image by Shervin Lainez.
We'd usually kick these things off by talking about an artist's early success: the gradual rise to where they are now, the challenges they've faced along the way, that awkward emerging phase where the band are between the cliffs of mainstream and alternative. However, for SOFI TUKKER, it would almost be a crime to say that they gradually emerged into stardom. Instead, they ran up and backflipped over it; exploding in a matter of months off the back of their debut single, Drinkee. With its memorable hook (catchy, despite it being sung completely in Portuguese), slick bass groove and sun-soaked melodies, it's arguably one of the biggest debut singles from a dance music act, landing them a GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance Recording, charting in Australia (where it would eventually be awarded Gold certification, signalling over 35,000 stand-alone sales), and finding them an incredible amount of acclaim and love internationally.
In the three years since Drinkee's explosive arrival, SOFI TUKKER have only flourished. The New York duo composed of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern have ticked off almost every life accomplishment an aspiring musician would have going into a new project; their songs have soundtracked not one, but two Apple product launches; their Best Dance Recording GRAMMY nomination was met with one for Best Dance/Electronic Album, awarded to their debut album Treehouse; and they're one of a limited number of musicians who have scored a place in FIFA's often career-making soundtrack consecutively - doing so in 2017, then again in 2018.
Reflecting, it's honestly not too hard to understand SOFI TUKKER's broad, over-arching appeal. Musically, they're unmatched at crafting accessible house-pop that are laden with their musical personality and these unique, SOFI TUKKER sensibilities – whether it be Sophie's uniting of Portuguese and English on singles including Drinkee and the ZHU-featuring Mi Rumba, or the combination of catchy vocal hooks, playful melodies and clattering percussion kicks on Fuck They and Baby I'm A Queen. Their work shines with a slick, polished feel that simultaneously, is fun and relaxed; a difficult feat full-stop, let alone in dance music. The SOFI TUKKER touch and their subsequent appeal are broad, but it's always there - and it's made them unstoppable.
Following the success of their debut album, which arrived almost exactly a year ago now, SOFI TUKKER are eyeing off their next steps. At Coachella, they brought out names including Brazilian drag queen-turned-popstar and close friend Pabllo Vittar to debut a refined, new live show - something we'll touch on more shortly - while this month, came Fantasy - a stand-alone returning single that marked their first solo track since their debut album. It's a single that glistens with that signature SOFI TUKKER charm but approached in a bit of a different way; feeling a touch more focused and polished than their past work, while keeping the fun, exciting energy that makes SOFI TUKKER what they are. In saying that, however, it also signals a new era marked my experimentation and excitement, triggering an almost 90s euro-dance-inspired epic that centres Sophie's soaring vocal above quick-darting synth and relentless - but intricate - bass kicks. "Once you have built up a whole imagination about somebody (or something), you may think you have to risk your life and put all your energy into achieving it. But then when you get there, it's not what you thought it was at all. In the end, it’s all about the journey," they say on the single and its official video, which arrived alongside it. "We are on a journey to realise our fantasies, and we have to overcome obstacles to get there, but when we finally reach the goal, we instantly get transported to another world.
Talking over the phone from the east coast, where SOFI TUKKER have just landed for a national run of dates with Groovin the Moo and headline sideshows presented by Pilerats and Cattleyard, the two-piece explain that Fantasy is just the start of an exciting new era to come, while also chatting about their Coachella set, the appeal of Latin America, and what they have planned for their Australian run of dates. Read it below, and get more information (and tickets) on the shows HERE.
I usually start off by asking artists what they've been up to this week, but I saw you guys play at Coachella over the weekend from the live stream so I guess that answers that. How was that experience?
It was crazy. We've been working on that show for a long time and we basically have been visualizing and creating our ideal live show set up, which we premiered at Coachella. It was a lot of build up; a lot of people working really, really hard on it. But, it went really well. It was a very triumphant feeling and everything in that tent just felt really positive and wonderful.
How did it differ from what your live show looked like before?
The scale of the productions are a lot different. We worked a lot of tracks as well and mixed some into each other, and we did some new tracks that we have never really played before; a test run of kinds, which is always really exciting to do as an artist. We also have this big instrument thing in the middle of the stage that we call the 'Book Tree.' That's brand new now, and it plays different samples and different parts of songs that it did previously - like last time we were in Australia a few years back.
It was just really it was so much fun. We really just were so excited by how it interacted with the crowd and how we felt up there. It was really great.
I'm gonna come back to the live show a bit later on, but, first of all, I just wanted to bring up and congratulate you guys on what's been a huge, monumental year. Treehouse came out pretty much this time last year, almost exactly. Since then, it's been endless touring and GRAMMY nominations and performances and Coachella and so on - it almost feels like you guys haven't really stopped. How has that past 12 months influenced SOFI TUKKER? Have you come out of it with a new feeling towards the project?
I don't think so. I think we started last year very excited and determined, and I think we're coming into this year just as excited and determined, you know? I think we always want to keep it rolling and we always have new music that we're so excited about that we feel is the best we've ever had that, and we want to get out to the world. We're definitely proud of everything from the year, but you know, we just want to build on it and keep it rolling.
I think we're more-so inspired by the year. We've had so many amazing experiences and met so many interesting people and we want to just be able to create the kind of feeling that we have within us in our music, and then share it with more people.
You have Fantasy, the first solo single since Treehouse came out last year. It's been mentioned a few times in press and what-not that it's the next phase, post-Treehouse. It's the next step for SOFI TUKKER. Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys are, if you are, switching things up and approaching things differently now that the debut album's all out the way?
Yeah. We've definitely just evolved in terms of what we are creating, but I don't think that our outlook is super different. I just think that it's more clarified. I think we now know what we're about more than ever.
Now, we write music knowing what it feels like to play shows to thousands of people, so we write music that would feel really good in that setting. It's also really clarified to us that we want to have music really connected to euphoric experiences with people. So that's the kind of music that we're really excited about making. The next phase so-to-speak for SOFI TUKKER is a lot of things, and I don't think you can really pin down one thing. There's a lot of very different sounds being made, but it's all very exciting
You guys actually seem like genuinely very excited about everything which is such a good thing to have after all this time.
It's true, we are.
Obviously making a debut album is such a huge step and there are so many learning curves associated with that. Was there anything that making that album and coming off the back of it that you can feel in Fantasy and your new work?
There's something very euphoric about it, and something kind of big about it. It takes up a lot of space, like that feeling of being in a festival or being at a show with a lot of people. That large sound is something that has been a part of our lives during this past year for sure, and it's something you can definitely here in everything we're working on now, especially Fantasy.
One thing I actually did want to talk about is the inspiration you two hold in South America and the Portuguese language. It was in Drinkee, the breakout single, right through to now - bringing out and working with people like Pablo Vittar, who's obviously such a huge figure in Latin America and Mi Rumba, with ZHU. What is it that draws you to this language, culture and its people as something to be passionate about?
Yeah, it's definitely a huge part of our band and a huge part of my inspiration, and now our inspiration. It's just really melodic and beautiful and there's something about Latin culture that's very open and has a very open heart and warmth to it and joy and colour that rings really true to us. Sometimes I say I'm Brazilian at heart. Like, if I could just choose where I could be from, that's where I feel like I identify most closely with, because there's a certain spirit there that just really resonates.
Yeah. It's obviously something that sets you apart from everybody else in dance music as well, right?
Yeah. I mean, I don't know. Are there other dance acts making Brazilian poetry? I don't think so.
One thing that I did pick up on when you were talking then, is that you're attracted to the joy and colour and that excitement, and I know it's something that you really hold close to your music, and sort of what Treehouse is about. One of the big things for SOFI TUKKER is creating this safe space where people can experiment and be themselves and be happy and excited and all those other euphoric feelings. Is that something that you try to translate into your live show?
Absolutely. That's everything that we try to accomplish in our live show for sure. I think all those feelings are even more powerful when they're felt on a collective level and that's really the goal.
So, obviously, you guys play very different spaces: from small, sweaty clubs to massive tents like at Coachella. How you do you go about doing that, no matter the situation?
We just have to prepare. We respect the audience always; whether there are a couple people out there or 20,000 or more, we're thankful that they're there and we want to give them our best, you know?
So we always prepare and we always warm up before the shows and we get psyched up. Then, we go and play our best show we can every time, whether we're feeling a little sick or whatever it is. It's like someone out there paid to come to see us, that is so cool, and they deserve a good show.
It's sort of something that ties into Fantasy as well, because I was reading you guys talk about it and how you said it's all about overcoming obstacles and challenges to realize your fantasies and be what you want to be. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Yeah, the video was really about that. I think very often we create fantasies in our mind about what we think we want and what we think is good for us, and often, you have to be careful what you wish for. When that becomes true, it's not very good for you and it's not very what you thought it was. Imagination is a powerful thing, but you have to be careful with it sometimes.
Is that sort of a lesson that's been learned through the rise of SOFI TUKKER? Or is it more in a general sense?
I don't actually think through the rise of SOFI TUKKER it has been, because I think even though we have ambition, I don't think we have a really specific vision of what it will turn into. I think as it unfolds and as we become, it evolves with us. Whereas the song specifically was written about in a romantic situation and you imagine somebody that ends up not even being the real person at all.
So you guys are coming back to Australia for your second time, is it?
Obviously so much has changed since you guys were here for the first time, which was pretty much just after the massive success of Drinkee. What should people expect this time that they sort of might have not seen before?
Well, we've definitely become better performers. We've been doing enough stuff for two years since then and we also have this brand new live show that we're gonna be sharing. So there's all that and there's a lot of new music.
It's gonna be crazy and fun and people should expect to dance their buns off.
SOFI TUKKER's new single Fantasy is out now. See them touring nationally with Groovin the Moo, and headline shows presented by Pilerats and Cattleyard.
Follow SOFI TUKKER: FACEBOOK